Manchester United might have discovered a contender to replace Harry Maguire as club captain – George Smith
When the going has got tough for Manchester United this season, David de Gea has not been afraid to mince his words.
The Spaniard, who is likely to scoop the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award for a fifth time since joining the club in 2011 at the end of the season, has often acted as chief-spokesman in the midst of United storms this season. He was the first to take to social media after the disappointing 1-0 defeat to Wolves in January and found himself in the same boat after the 4-1 drubbing to Manchester City last month.
On Saturday, after United’s 1-0 defeat to Everton, however, he did not require the power of social media to express his frustrations. Instead, he used his post-match interview with BT Sport to make his feelings known on another calamitous performance.
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He said: “I don’t know what to say, to be honest. We knew before today they were struggling and how difficult it was going to be.
“It’s not the perfect atmosphere. You see today they [Everton] were tired, nervous, they keep fighting, they had more desire.
“It’s not acceptable. They played Wednesday and they were tired but they had more desire than us, that is not acceptable.
“Very sad to lose. It is a disgrace from us. We should be winning this game.”
‘Disgrace’, ‘not acceptable’ and ‘not the perfect atmosphere’. De Gea was not afraid to be truthful, even if it offered an insight into the sorry state of life inside the United dressing room.
But even though it painted a negative picture of the current mood in the squad, you have to credit De Gea for standing up, being brutally honest and leading by example. The former Atletico Madrid man, during a time where a United squad has never been under the microscope so much for all the wrong reasons, produced an interview that carried meaning and came from the heart.
Although social media apologies from footballers, certainly nowadays, can carry very hollow feelings to them, De Gea’s post-match assessment on Saturday, staring down the camera belonging to one of the rights holders, could not have been more constraining. He was not afraid to give an honest assessment on another forgettable day at the office, opposed to when others might have sugar-coated the performance, even if that would have required an acting degree.
It is why De Gea should be under consideration to become United’s next captain. Harry Maguire’s future with the armband has been under scrutiny for several months and it remains to be seen if he will start next season sporting the armband. After all, though, that decision looks set to rest with Erik ten Hag.
Of course, however, it is hard to say whether or not De Gea will be United’s first choice goalkeeper next season, particularly if Ten Hag lands the job. Dean Henderson was a target for Ajax ahead of the January transfer window, meaning Ten Hag may favour the England international when selecting his No.1 for the 2022/23 campaign.
But if De Gea does retain his place and Ten Hag strips Maguire of the captaincy, the former is displaying all of the necessary hallmarks and credentials to make himself captain material. He has stood up and refused to play down United’s troubles whilst others have trotted out familiar messages along the lines of ‘we’ll go again next week’ or ‘we will learn from this and come back stronger’.
The goalkeeper’s post-match interview on Saturday, even though it did little to lift the mood or extinguish another forgettable United performance, was refreshing and honest, offering belief that there is at least some spirit and determination left in the camp. It is only a small thing, but means a lot.
A cultural reset is desperately needed at Old Trafford this summer and Ten Hag, should he pick up the baton from Ralf Rangnick, will quickly discover who should and should not be part of his grand plan to make United great again. If De Gea’s comments and actions over the course of this season are anything to go by, he should be be part of the Dutchman’s revolution one way or another.
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